Handmade Love

- by Todd Martin

Being a lover of food my whole life and cooking since I can remember I’m always on the lookout for new food experiences. So, 14 years ago when my wife (she was my girlfriend at the time) said, we’re going over to my parent’s tomorrow morning to make tamales, I was excited. We arrived at 8 a.m. to an incredible sight, 5 bushels of corn, 25 pounds of freshly roasted green chilies, 18 friends and family and 5 cases of beer. After a full 10 hour day of making tamales I was in love (was it the beer?). We were going to make green corn tamales! I was already in love with Sherry, now I was in love with making tamales.

There’s a connectedness to making tamales. Like planting your garden. The feel of the damp soil sifting through your fingers. When making tamales there’s nothing like the feel of freshly prepared masa being gently patted onto the smooth side of a corn husk. As you roll the tamal and tuck one side of the husk under the other you are in awe of the beauty you just created. It’s hard work but the rewards are well worth it. In my restaurant journeys I found many a delicious green corn tamale but little else to satisfy my craving for a really, really good tamale. So I did what so many others do, you make it yourself.


Motivated by my need for something out of the ordinary I started making my own.  Friends and family would come over and rave about the incredible tamales.  They wanted some to take home but we hardly ever had leftovers. I have over 25 different tamales in my ‘portfolio’ (my online nickname is ‘cornartist’ look for me on twitter) and am always trying new things.  In early 2008 I made the decision to leave my executive position at a fortune 500 company to and make my tamales for everyone.


On November 21st, 2008 the Tucson Tamale Company opened it’s doors and the rave reviews keep coming in. We do all the hard work so you can enjoy incredible tamales.  I personally make every batch of fillings using the best ingredients we can find. Every Tamale is hand rolled and gently steamed. Tamales are the perfect food in that they are just as good (if not better) after they have been re-steamed.  And we also have some of the best salsas you’ll ever have.  I know you’ll love them.

Fresh Ingredients

Our gourmet tamales use only the freshest ingredients, made daily in small batches to bring you the best tamale you’ve ever tasted.   Our organic corn masa is lard-free and whipped to perfection.  Whether it is fresh meat, fresh vegetables or freshly grated cheese, we take pride in the high quality and consistency of our delicious tamales.


After the completion each day’s preparation as I survey the filling and masas that have been prepared for the next day of tamale rolling I’m amazed at the wonderful flavors we create using simple fresh ingredients.


 Our chipotle beef filling that is used in the Arizona and Tucson tamale uses beef that is cut to our specifications in the early morning and delivered to us same day. We make the chipotle en adobo that is the main flavoring ingredient so we have complete control of all the ingredients that go into this filling.


 Our chicken tamale is called the Sonora and it is a labor of love to prepare. We get the freshest whole chicken and roast it ourselves every morning. The labor of love part is turning the beautifully golden brown roasted whole chickens into the meat for the filling.


Our pork tamale, the Santa Fe, also uses pork cut to our specifications and delivered same day. When the tamale is rolled, freshly grated cheese is added that really enhances the flavor of the filling.


Diced onion, cubed squash and sliced mushrooms for our vegan and vegetarian fillings are cut the same day and within minutes of cooking. That is why you can taste the freshness of the calabasitas filling used in the Blue and Vegan Blue tamale. The mushrooms are part of the Austin tamale that also uses fresh organic baby spinach as the other main ingredient.


The partner that’s needed to make these wonderful fillings into tamales is masa. Call it a dough, call it a paste, I call it a miracle. It makes the best filling taste better. We use organic masa harina to make super consistent masa. Our masa is made daily for the next day’s rolling.  Made today – rolled tomorrow, keeping it fresh.


To make our green corn tamale masa we use super sweet organic whole kernel corn that we grind ourselves and combine with the organic masa harina to make a masa that is filled with our freshly grated cheese blend and fire roasted green chiles. A combination of sweet and savory that is hard to resist. WARNING: Once you try one you will never think of tamales the same way again.


It’s a simple formula. Fresh ingredients prepared with care and consistency to make tamales that will change the way you think about tamales.



Unwrap Happiness

Happiness sometimes comes in the most unexpected way.  My gluten-free, vegan daughter had discovered Tucson Tamale Company at a local Farmers’ Market and she was excited to share this find with her carnivore Mom.  I’ll never forget that first incredibly delicious bite of the Santa Fe tamale.  Wow! I love tamales but this was the best ever. We purchased 6 different varieties for a family dinner.  That was happiness – a meal the whole family could enjoy together.  With a wide circle of friends with different food preferences, guess what my daughter chose to serve at her wedding?  That was a very happy day!


Over the last 3 years, I have enjoyed the many personal stories from our customers about their tamale experiences.  There is the Christmas story of a University of Arizona student who flew home to the east coast with tamales for his father and made him cry (happy tears) when he presented them to him on Christmas Day.  A man from Mexico City came into the shoppe, ordered 2 green corn tamales, and then 2 more and then 2 more.  Stuffed and smiling, he exclaimed these were better than his mother used to make.  Catering is a joy, particularly when out-of-town guests are discovering and loving tamales for the first time, or someone says “finally, something I can eat!”


Perhaps the best indicator of the happiness level that Tucson Tamales brings is the number of the times we see our customers.  Every week, there is a 3 year-old boy who comes to the market with his Mom & Dad for a Sonora.  A young man named Mike calls multiple times a week as he leaves work in the evening to place his order before we close.  Scott first sent tamales to his mother in Massachusetts for her birthday, then Christmas, then Mother’s Day and another birthday.  When she visited her son, Tucson Tamale Company was one of her first stops.  Quite a few of our winter visitors come straight from the airport to the shoppe.  Is there such a thing as a tamale-addiction?  Some of our customers say so.


Sometimes we are asked, “What is a tamale?”  The answer is happiness…but please, after you unwrap the tamale, don’t eat the corn husk.